KINGMAN, Ariz. — The family of a 9-year-old girl who accidentally killed her instructor at a northwestern Arizona shooting range spoke out through a lawyer Tuesday, saying they were devastated and are praying for the man’s family.
The statement came just over a week after the Aug. 25 shooting of instructor Charles Vacca at the Last Stop range in White Hills, about 60 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The family’s comments came the same day investigators released police reports and 911 recordings involving the shooting.
The girl, who has not been named, had fired several single shots with a 9 mm Uzi machine gun, a video taken on the mother’s cellphone showed, but then lost control after she fired the weapon on automatic mode.
The father and mother, Alex and Alison MacLachlan, told investigators that their daughter indicated the weapon was “too much” for her and that its recoil hurt her shoulder.
No one noticed at first that Charles Vacca, her instructor, had fallen onto a table with blood streaming from his head.
Instructor Ross Miller rushed to his aid, laid him on the ground and called 911, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office reported.
“Ross said that he saw the girl shoot the weapon and due to the recoil, the weapon went straight up in the air and crossed the path where Charles had his head,” an investigator recounted in the incident report.
Five 911 calls totaling about 10 minutes in duration were released Tuesday. Those reporting the incident implored dispatchers to rush medical support to the Last Stop, a convenience store and restaurant enterprise between Las Vegas and Phoenix.
“We need a helicopter,” one caller said. “An ambulance ain’t going to work. We need a helicopter.”
Dispatchers advised civilians to apply cloth and pressure to the gunshot wound to the head sustained by Vacca. They directed civilians to turn the 39-year-old instructor from Lake Havasu City on his side so fluids could drain from his mouth.
One man can be heard on the tape encouraging Vacca to fight for life. “Keep breathing, keep breathing brother,” he told Vacca.
Vacca died at University Medical Center in Las Vegas about 11 hours after the shooting after being airlifted there.
“Words cannot express the family’s sadness about the accidental shooting of Charles Vacca,” the family’s lawyer’s statement on Tuesday said. “They prayed day and night that he would survive his injury, and they continue to pray for his family during this terribly difficult time.”
“They are devastated by this accident that turned what was supposed to be a unique and brief excursion from their summer vacation into a life changing tragedy.”
Sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Thien said in his report that the father, a New Jersey resident, told him that the family of five had taken a shuttle from Las Vegas to the shooting range. The man said they enjoyed a Monster truck ride before he, his wife, their two daughters and their son were taken to the range.
The Sheriff’s Office determined that the accident occurred after Vacca switched the weapon to “fully automatic” and has so far called the shooting accidental.
Four live rounds were left in the Uzi as it was placed into evidence at the scene.
The father, mother and their children quickly left the range after the accident and moved to the restaurant about 100 yards away before interviews were conducted. The father told police the family was in shock and just wanted “to leave the area and go back to Vegas.”
The reports indicated that the Sheriff’s Office has communicated with a representative of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that is also conducting an investigation.
Shooting range owner Sam Scarmardo said last week that age-related rules and other regulations and policies are under review. He said thousands of people had previously fired weapons at the range with no incidents or injuries.
The reports indicated that investigators were unable to retrieve liability waiver forms signed by the parents that were blown away in the wind after the accident.
Sheriff Jim McCabe has said that no citations or charges will result from the accident.
Chief Deputy Mohave County Attorney Jace Zack said his office would review incident reports, but that prosecution of any sort is unlikely.
Review-Journal writer Annalise Little and The Associated Press contributed to this report.